I awake in the early morning hours, with the sing song of the roosters, the rhythmic, creaking melody of a swimming hammock, and the soothing effect of a hot cup of Vietnamese coffee. The wind plays with the hammock, causing it to swing unevenly in the breeze. The sun casts a yellowish hue on all of Otres and warms the chilly town. I am immediately put into a state of therapeutic relaxation.
This relaxation and peace comes from a far away land, a land that’s unknown to most and a paradise to few.
It’s a place where one comes to watch the sunset every evening and escape the rowdiness from its neighbor SihanoukVille.
I walk along Otres Beach and admire its simplicity.
The cerulean waves lick sand the color of the clouds. The sand at the bottom of the ocean is marked with a striped pattern from the constant sweeping motion of the waves as they move back and forth.
Round men in speedos walk next to their significant other in search for their only vice, a cheap happy hour cocktail and a 75 cent beer.
Thai children walk down the beach in search for empty cans left behind by careless travelers. A plastic water bottle gently moves with the waves as it toys with it like a dog playing with a foreign object.
The black silhouettes of horses glide peacefully along the ocean like a current as the waves kiss the snow colored sand, and the sun slowly sinks towards the horizon like a curtain after the final bow.
The wind rustles prickly plants. Only the dead leaves, weak with age, break off and float silently through the air as the wind twirls them like a girl playing with a loose strand of hair. It falls to the ground where it will soon be forgotten and washed away with the ocean.
My skin sizzles from the strength of the sun’s rays as it paints my body a dark color, like an artist outlining his final project. Sweat slowly drips down my back and my arms like a woman’s fingernail caressing her lover’s back as she teases him.
The bath water licks my feet as I step foot into the ocean. There are no rocks, only the softness of the sand.
Salty air invades my lungs as I breathe deeply. This is a calmness I have never felt in my entire life. It is a relaxed tranquility that comes with being in the quiet area of Otres Beach.
Tiny specs of people in the distance are the only indicators of life around me. Reality dissipates and becomes something unreachable, something as high as the sky. It floats away peacefully and unwanted as if it were a debilitating disease with no cure.
The sun sinks towards the horizon as the earth spins and gravity does its job. I watch the sunset through a magnifying glass as I hone in on the beauty of it all, like a mother seeing her newborn child for the first time.
The waves crash on the ocean breaking the silence of the beach. It’s an enjoyable silence, a silence that sounds different anywhere else, any other place in the world.
Babies with skin as soft and smooth as an apple giddily play in the waves. Their laughter pierces the air like rich, melting chocolate pierces the tongue. Tiny grains of sand stick to my arm like sprinkles on a cake. Palm trees, with their long, tentacle-like branches resembling that of Disney’s Ursula, twist and bend in the breeze as if they’re waving to everyone below them.
Otres Village, with its tiny shops and cheap Khmer food offers a home to those who arrive. The inexpensive bungalows for monthly rent gives Otres the charm that is unlike anywhere else in Cambodia. Familiar faces pass by like headlights on a car, moving this way and that so you never feel alone. Anywhere you go, you will know someone.
Saturday nights hold Otres Market, which brings the community together with food and live music. Heads bob in synchrony as they listen to the calm tunes coming from the plucking of guitar strings. International food and stands selling hand made jewelry and clothes line the market in an attempt to lure interested buyers.
When the early birds go to sleep, a DJ takes over and creates art with his turn tables and electronic equipment. Feet stomp in unison to the rhythmic tempo coming from the speakers, now in the center of the market.
On Wednesdays, a jungle rave called Kerfuffle takes place deep in the jungle, a few kilometers outside of the village. Backpackers come together to dance from 10 at night until 10 in the morning, only to continue the party at a local hostel bar.
In the jungle, the trees and the plants sway with the breeze and dance with the backpackers. The dirt absorbs the sweat that drips down the dancer’s backs, thirsty for more. The vibrations from the pounding feet rattle the nearby animals and bring the jungle to life.
Otres is a place where time freezes and anything outside of this beach town ceases to exist.
If you want to escape, come find yourself at Otres Beach.